Georgia’s defense prepares to bring Alec Ogletree, Bacarri Rambo back into fold

Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham is not saying it just yet, but he's darn glad to have linebacker Alec Ogletree back in teh fold. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham is not saying it just yet, but he's darn glad to have linebacker Alec Ogletree back in the fold. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

ATHENS – Georgia has survived the Great Suspension Plague of 2012.

While no one is still coming right out and saying as much, we know from outside testimony, school policies, indirect hints and good old-fashioned horse sense that star linebacker Alec Ogletree and All-American free safety Bacarri Rambo are returning from four-game suspensions this week. And they’re getting back just in the nick of time as next on the dance card is Tennessee and its high-octane offense.

Ogletree and Rambo are the last two of four defensive starters that were missing for the Bulldogs this first part of the season as a result of internal team discipline. Cornerback Sanders Commings and outside linebacker Chase Vasser were benched two games each for off-season arrests.

Retrospectively, some might say that there was no great challenge there; that it was only Missouri, Vanderbilt, Buffalo and Florida Atlantic and that the Bulldogs should have been able to handle them with four starters out. But nobody could have foreseen what the Tigers and Commodores would present heading into the season. And the book is still out on how good or bad Georgia’s first two SEC opponents are.

What we do know is Georgia, now ranked No. 5 and undefeated at 4-0, came through the ordeal unscathed. And it was a lot harder than it looked.

Not only did coach Todd Grantham have to get inexperienced players ready to play major roles — including converting receiver Malcolm Mitchell into a starting boundary corner — but he had to do so while also repping the suspended players in to the mix and making sure they stayed sharp.

“That’s probably been the most difficult thing,” said Grantham, in his third season as Georgia’s defensive coordinator. “You’ve got to look at developing guys and have a vision as the season goes along getting your best guys on the field. At the same time you have to get some young guys ready to play this moment.  So it’s a balancing act between preparing guys to play the game and do well in the game and continuing to develop guys who maybe weren’t playing for whatever reason. That’s been the challenge. I think we’ve done a pretty good job with it. Now we’ll try to continue to develop guys and play the best ones available.”

Now comes Phase II of the transition. Phase I, bringing back Commings and Vasser, was relatively smooth. Commings spoke of being a little rusty in his first game back at free safety in more than a year. But the secondary part of the Phase II would appear fairly simple. The Bulldogs will merely plug in their All-American back at free safety and Commings will roll back in at boundary corner, where he belongs.

The linebacker part of the equation is not quite as easy. First of all, the player that has been playing Ogletree’s “Mo” inside linebacker position — Amarlo Herrera — has been doing so at a high level. The 6-foot-2, 245-pound sophomore from College Park  leads the team and is ninth in the SEC with 30 tackles. He also has a couple of tackles for loss, two pass break-ups and an interception return for a touchdown.

“I’ve been doing pretty good,” Herrera said with a grin.

But Ogletree (6-3, 232) brings another whole element to the position. He’s faster, rangier and more of an up-field pressure threat. The combination of him on the inside and Jarvis Jones on the outside — with Big John Jenkins in the middle — is problematic for offenses.

For his part, Herrera says he’ll take whatever comes.

“That’s tricky because you know Tree’s going to play,” Herrera said. “He has to. He’s a great player.”

Said senior Christian Robinson, who splits time between both the “Mo” and “Mike” positions: “The way it worked last season is we had five different guys at inside linebacker all playing. I could see that happening again. It’s basically just the next guy in. You can’t win the whole season with 11 guys. You need a lot of guys to contribute. I imagine we’ll continue to rotate and we’ll have a bunch of hungry guys ready to make plays.”

Georgia’s defense hasn’t stunk without its full complement of players, but neither has it been the dominant unit everyone expected. The Bulldogs enter Saturday’s game against Tennessee ranked 7th in the SEC in points allowed (16.5 ppg) , 8th in total defense (343.2 ypg) and 8th against the rush (135.5 ypg).

The prospect of a deep and motivated inside linebacker corps has to excite the Bulldogs and certainly must unsettle Georgia’s opponents. And with the pass-happy Vols coming to town, it certainly is a relief to be back at full strength.

“I think as we move forward it will give us a little bit of depth,” Grantham said. He, too, was smiling.

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216 comments Add your comment

Fatman McFatterstein

September 26th, 2012
3:33 pm

First by the Fatman!

twitter

September 26th, 2012
3:38 pm

rambo’s twitter says otherwise

Bacarri Rambo - VolNation

September 26th, 2012
3:39 pm

[...] Heaven forbid that anyone just go to the source on UGA football news when we can just spew a bunch of nonsense. Georgia’s defense prepares to bring Alec Ogletree, Bacarri Rambo back into fold | UGA sports b… [...]

Dylan

September 26th, 2012
3:40 pm

Rambo could be messing with people. Richt probably told him not to say he’s back this week,

Old Boy

September 26th, 2012
3:40 pm

Rambo got a lot of interceptions last year. But don’t forget that he is a high-risk, high-reward individual. It is awesome to have him back as he is an absolute stud, but don’t forget the sour that accompanies the sweet.

Mark Richt's Goatee

September 26th, 2012
3:40 pm

Play they shall, and play very well- against the Cocks. This week will get the rust off.

GO DAWGS!!!!

JB

September 26th, 2012
3:42 pm

Johnson at Tech and his AD could learn something from this. Richt sat 4 very good players. That’s the price. He didn’t say we got some big ball games to play and bigger fish to fry. Tech is in trouble for putting the games ahead of the NCAA inquiry. Good luck Dawgs. Run the Table

Mightydawg

September 26th, 2012
3:42 pm

I wouldn’t believe what I read on twitter. Rambo and Tree are back.

billo

September 26th, 2012
3:43 pm

JB

September 26th, 2012
3:43 pm

Richt went up to Rambo after the game last week and hugged him on the sideline. That tells me it’s over. Play Ball

billo

September 26th, 2012
3:43 pm

JB

September 26th, 2012
3:46 pm

Next two weeks are huge. We go to Jacksonville undefeated and ranked #4.

Contractor

September 26th, 2012
3:53 pm

What can you can say here is that Georgia has finally had games they have finished. For YEARS, Georgia has played down to competition and never just stepped on the throat of an opponent and kept their foot down, but this year they’re actually doing it. Continue to keep that foot on the throat not letting teams hang around will pay dividends in the end and will therefor create a more hungry and emotional team that smells blood in the water.

7576DAWG

September 26th, 2012
3:55 pm

Putting pressure on Bray is everything. Ogletree and Rambo are way past ready to show what they mean to the defense. Plus they only have 8 more games and the playoff’s to prove they are first round draft material. Bray will be throwing 5 yard passes all day to keep Jones and company from half killing him.

Blue Ridge Dawg

September 26th, 2012
3:57 pm

Media and fans have made such a big deal about UGA being quiet on injuries and suspensions. Sure, its info we would like to know, but at the end of the day it should only invole the player, the parents, and the staff. Why should we know???

Its TN week… And all I know is GO DAWGS!!

mark

September 26th, 2012
3:58 pm

I dont care who is coming back, Herrera HAS to play. He has been outstanding and shows that deceptive speed. He has made it very difficult for Grantham not to start him.

Flat Tire on I-95 in Jacksonville

September 26th, 2012
3:58 pm

Frankly who cares

Im tired of reading about key players being kicked off the team or suspended for several games put the team in a bad situation

Far as Im concerned Rambo and Ogletree can sit and let those that have been playing play

Flat Tire on I-95 in Jacksonville

September 26th, 2012
4:00 pm

mark

I agree; Ogletree should sit and watch Herrera play he was good last year and this year

Im tired of these knuckleheads getting chance after chance while the Herrara’s of the world have to continue to prove something that they have already proven

Huh?

September 26th, 2012
4:07 pm

7576 Dawg….putting pressure on any good QB is everything. However, TN has been pretty good at pass protection, so I really don’t think that Jones and company are going to be as dominate as some UGA fans would like to think. They will get some pressure for sure, but it’s not like Bray is going to be on his back all game. He’ll get his yards.

UGA should win this game, but I just don’t think the margin of victory will be what some UGA fans think. TN has weapons, and it’s certainly the stiffest test UGA has faced yet. UGA fans don’t need to get too overconfident because they beat two cupcakes, an average Missouri team, and Vandy…

AltamahaDawg

September 26th, 2012
4:10 pm

Easy. Georgia Bulldog fan care. We care about Herrera, we care about Ogletree and Rambo. It’s not really that complicated.

Flat Tire on I-95 in Jacksonville

September 26th, 2012
4:15 pm

We sure do

We care when our program is known for knuckleheads and fulmer cup awards instead winning big

Really?

September 26th, 2012
4:16 pm

The ajc has been unhappy with Georgia this season. All this winning and lack of controversy has REALLY been hurting the number of posts from hate filled losers. By the end of the season there will be nothing but actual Georgia fans posting.

AltamahaDawg

September 26th, 2012
4:18 pm

Personally, I am a big fan of having the best availble players on the field. Not only is that football wise, it’s the only fair thing to do among the players.

AltamahaDawg

September 26th, 2012
4:20 pm

SO your vote is to lower the standards and policies so that (rambo and ogletree) would not have been suspended?

Flat Tire on I-95 in Jacksonville

September 26th, 2012
4:20 pm

Lack of discipline off the field leads to lack of discipline during games period

And how is it fair to Herrera he has done just as good

LeftCoastDawg

September 26th, 2012
4:20 pm

Huh? is what someone who has nothing intelligent to say says. It is evident after reading many of your posts on the various UGA blogs.

As for the Herrera fans, you guys must be idiots if you don’t think Ogletree is an upgrade. Herrera is very serviceable and should be commended for holding down the fort while Ogletree was out but you want your best players on the field as much as possible……and Ogletree is hands down better than Herrera (even by his own admission).

Huh?

September 26th, 2012
4:21 pm

Once you have served your penalty it should be over with. You can’t keep penalizing them after the fact. They got caught and sat out the games. Now, it’s up to the coaching staff to field the players that give the team the best opportunity to win.

LeftCoastDawg

September 26th, 2012
4:23 pm

@Really? – there will always be UGA haters no matter how good the Dawgs are.

Huh?

September 26th, 2012
4:23 pm

LeftCoast…not sure what I said that was unintelligent. You might disagree with it, and that’s fine….but unintelligent is just meant to be an insult. Not sure why you are doing it.

LeftCoastDawg

September 26th, 2012
4:24 pm

Finally! A smart comment from Huh? I stand corrected and I’m man enough to admit it.

Truthiness

September 26th, 2012
4:25 pm

Having this talent on the sidelines moping serves no one’s interest. If they’re available, put them on the field. Keep them fresh, hungry, and competitive.

Phil Filmer

September 26th, 2012
4:25 pm

GET IN MY BELLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLAY!!

Huh?

September 26th, 2012
4:26 pm

Thanks LeftCoast….I am not a UGA hater. Now, I don’t come on here agree with all the Kool-Ade from time to time…that is, I give as honest an assessment as I can.

DAWGFAN11

September 26th, 2012
4:26 pm

Tree and Rambo are huge! they are both in the middle of that D and thats where Georgia has had problems. I hope we see some exotic blitzes comoing at Bray! When he is under pressure, he likes to throw the ball to the other team. Also, please move Mitchell back to offense! The recevers are doing a good job, but Mitchell gives you that deep threat every play and opens the middle of the field. Bennett is your possession reciever, M Brown is your goal line guy, T King is a great rout runner, Wooten is your reverse guy and Conley is young and a great special teams guy who can catch a few passes as well. I would like to see Rome at TE. I am not that impressed with Lynch!

LeftCoastDawg

September 26th, 2012
4:26 pm

Smart comment….referring to the one about fielding the best players that gives a team the opportunity to win. I’ll reserve comment going forward and elaborate for clarity if need should arise.
Enjoy the rest of your day!

Really?

September 26th, 2012
4:27 pm

Before some of the remaining haters get themselves worked into a frenzy about how Rambo and Tree are knuckleheads that don’t deserve to play let’s be honest. No other school in the SEC would have suspended any of these guys and very few in any other conference would have either.

Phil Fulmer

September 26th, 2012
4:28 pm

MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM TASTE LIKE CHICKEN

Reality Check

September 26th, 2012
4:29 pm

@ Mark @ Flat Tire – Herrera is playing great and will continue to play. He has a role on the team. However, he is not the player that Tree is. Like the article says, Alec Ogletree, with his speed, athleticism and tackling ability, brings a whole new dimension to UGA’s defense. Anyone who thinks he should sit and watch is either stupid or blind.

LeftCoastDawg

September 26th, 2012
4:29 pm

Heard Richt on one of those weekly talk shows last night and he said Mitchell would be getting more snaps on offense and that he was definitely the guy on punt returns. So, unless there is an injury, fatigue, or major screw up, expect to see Mitchell touching the ball.

LeftCoastDawg

September 26th, 2012
4:30 pm

Ditto Reality Check!

ARdawg

September 26th, 2012
4:30 pm

Tree and Hererra will be playing. It’s not brain science. Hererra has proven himself a talent and good coaches will not let that go unpunished. I don’t know why you guys try to make it such a big deal

ARdawg

September 26th, 2012
4:33 pm

IMHO, look forward to some rotation of the Mo and Mike with Jones, tree and Herrera

ARdawg

September 26th, 2012
4:33 pm

That’s depth and fresh pass rushing

Huh?

September 26th, 2012
4:33 pm

Oh LeftCoast…I’m sure you will have plenty of opportunity to get mad at me again in the future ; )

Like I said…I’m not a UGA hater…but not a Kool-Ade driner either. It seems as though sometimes, the only way you don’t get trashed on here is to be blind.

Joey

September 26th, 2012
4:34 pm

Dammit, Flat Tire, let’s just make them miss the whole season, for an offense that every freaking program with 500 miles would have suspended them for 1 game – if at all.

They paid their penalties, for having a good time at Spring Break of all things – they aren’t felons.

And you are blinded if you thing Herrera is half the LB Ogletree is at this point. Watch and see how many big-gain runs up the middle happen this Saturday.

Flat Tire on I-95 in Jacksonville

September 26th, 2012
4:34 pm

Reality Check

Im not blind Herrera had 37 total tackles last year while Ogletree had 52,

Not that far off for someone who was a freshman who didnt play as much as Ogletree

And as for speed Herrera has speed as well as he showed on that interception he made

Blue Ridge Dawg

September 26th, 2012
4:38 pm

Kinda missing GTBob?? Weird… Also, where are the Bobo haters?

Huh, can you chime in and whizz some folks off?

Huh?

September 26th, 2012
4:38 pm

@Really? @Joey…the problem with your reasoning is that you assume that stopping drug use is a futile excersize…isn’t that what UGA is trying to do with tough penalties? If the players will stop doing it to begin with, then it doesn’t matter how tough your policies are.

Da'Rick Dooley

September 26th, 2012
4:38 pm

Man yall crazy… Rambo aint playing he told me on twitter.

Huh?

September 26th, 2012
4:39 pm

Blue Ridge…funny. I’m sure I will get bashed before the day is over!